Louis van Gaal: The Mercurial & Enigmatic Dutch Master’s All-Time Best XI

Louis van Gaal is number 22 in 90min’s Top 50 Great Managers of All Time series. Follow the rest of the series over the course of the next five weeks. You can find Jamie Spencer’s Van Gaal career overview ​here

In the best part of 30 years as a manager, Louis van Gaal has nurtured, developed and honed some of the greatest footballers of a generation.

Having worked at four of the biggest clubs in the world – Ajax, Barcelona (twice), Bayern Munich and Manchester United – he was famed for handing debuts to emerging talents.

Barcelona legends Xavi, Carles Puyol and Andres Iniesta all owe a gratitude to Van Gaal for that, while his influence was key as German icons Bastian Schweinsteiger and Philipp Lahm made the transition from talented youngsters to world class stars in their mid-20s.

But Van Gaal’s finest and most famous work came during his time at Ajax, his very first job in football management, as he guided a team of largely home grown talent to European glory.

This is the best XI of his remarkable career…

Goalkeepers & Defenders


Edwin van der Sar (GK) – The legendary goalkeeper’s rise coincided rather perfectly with Van Gaal’s, with Van der Sar establishing himself as Ajax number one by 1992. He was named Best European Goalkeeper by UEFA in 1995 as Ajax won the Champions League and was Dutch Goalkeeper of the Year four times under Van Gaal’s tutelage

Michael Reiziger – After back-to-back loans out, Reiziger was brought back to Ajax at the start of the glorious 1994/95 season and was an ever present at right-back. He left Amsterdam as a free agent in 1996, but Van Gaal later saw fit to sign Reiziger at Barcelona for a sizeable £7m.

Danny Blind – A senior figure in Van Gaal’s all conquering Ajax side, Blind was the captain who lifted the 1995 Champions League trophy. He and Van Gaal were actually teammates at Sparta Rotterdam for several seasons in the early 1980s and they have been close friends for 40 years.

Frank de Boer – The classy defender played for Van Gaal at both Ajax and Barcelona, winning the Champions League with the former and La Liga with the latter. De Boer explained during an appearance on Sky Sports in 2018 that his mentor’s biggest strength was helping talented young players reach their full potential – “He could manage that so perfectly”.


Holland Training

Luis Figo – Although he would eventually become hated in the city, Figo was revered at Barcelona during Van Gaal’s first spell at Camp Nou, winning back-to-back La Liga titles in 1997/98 and 1998/99, as well as the Copa del Rey and UEFA Super Cup.

Clarence Seedorf – A debutant for Van Gaal at the age of 16, Seedorf won the first of four career Champions League titles under the Dutch master. Aged 18, Seedorf played 48 times for Ajax during that 1994/95 season alone, although he was among the very first high profile Bosman signings when he left to join Sampdoria in the summer of 1996.

Edgar Davids – Like Seedorf, Davids left Ajax on a free transfer in 1996, but not before Van Gaal had helped establish the ferocious midfielder as one of Europe’s most coveted players. Van Gaal named his star ball winner ‘The Pitbull’. They later reunited at international level.

Marc Overmars – Van Gaal moulded Overmars on and off the field, with the electric winger a star at throughout the early to mid 1990s. Since retirement he has become a renowned director of football at Ajax and has maintained close contact with his old boss, revealing that Van Gaal predicted the club’s incredible 2018/19 Champions League run before anyone else.



Jari Litmanen – Although not home grown like many of the others, a prolific Litmanen was arguably the star of Van Gaal’s golden Ajax team. The Finn also joined his boss at Barcelona in 1999, while in 2015 he commented: “Finland has shaped me as a footballer, but Van Gaal added the last fifteen, twenty per cent. He was demanding and honest. He saw everything.”

Rivaldo – “I don’t like Van Gaal, and I am sure that he doesn’t like me, either.” Those were Rivaldo’s words when the Brazilian left Barcelona in 2002. The pair had fallen out during Van Gaal’s first spell at Camp Nou, but Rivaldo actually played the best football of his career in the Dutchman’s team and won the Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player of the Year award in 1999.

Patrick Kluivert – Van Gaal’s faith gave Kluivert the opportunity to become the youngest goalscorer in a Champions League final when he scored Ajax’s famous late winner in 1995 at the age of just 18. The master also signed the apprentice for Barcelona in 1998 and years later appointed Kluivert to his coaching staff on the Dutch national team.

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Louis van Gaal: The Stubborn Master Who Won 15 Major Trophies at 4 of the World’s Greatest Clubs

Louis van Gaal is number 22 in 90min’s Top 50 Great Managers of All Time series. Follow the rest of the series over the course of the next five weeks.

Love him or hate him, and it is that black or white, Louis van Gaal is one of the great figures of modern football history: a stubborn idealist, an enigmatic personality, but above all, a serial winner.

For Van Gaal, two seasons at Manchester United that brought down the curtain on a 25-year career in 2016 covered all three. He was ruthlessly committed to his philosophy – ultimately to his detriment with a lack of correct personnel to implement it; the media and fans struggled to work out his marvellous eccentricities; and he delivered the club’s first major trophy since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in the shape of the FA Cup – the club’s first in the competition for 12 years.

Louis van Gaal,David De Gea

Cruelly, you are only remembered as being as good as your last job and Van Gaal often doesn’t get the recognition his career deserves after those two years in Manchester failed to yield a Premier League title challenge, or anything resembling one, or a finish higher than fourth.

The club was, for want of a better phrase, in crisis. There was no overarching plan, no structure, and no ability to suitably aid the manager in the transfer market.

Was it simply a case of right place, wrong time for Van Gaal? Perhaps.

The Dutch master remains fiercely proud of his stint at Old Trafford, as though he has a personal checklist of the most prestigious clubs in Europe. “I worked at the number one team in the Netherlands, Germany, Spain and now also in England,” he told BBC Sport in March 2019.

For this is a man who been there and done it all, time and time again, starting afresh in a new country and conquering the new just as he did the old.

Louis van Gaal

An Amsterdam native, Van Gaal’s playing career was fairly unremarkable. Moving from the amateur ranks, he began his senior career with Ajax at a time when the club was the best in world. He never played for the first team and spent his best years at Sparta Rotterdam. But it was back at Ajax upon retirement in 1987 that his coaching career began, first as an assistant.

Van Gaal landed the top Ajax job in September 1991 and by the end of his debut season in charge the club had won a major European trophy in the shape of the UEFA Cup. That side featured a young Dennis Bergkamp, but it was what Van Gaal would go on to achieve at Ajax in the following years that made him a legend and secured his legacy.

His greatest strength was always player development, placing his faith in young talent to help them unlock their true potential. With Van Gaal at the helm, Ajax gave birth to a golden generation to rival all golden generations, and one that conquered Europe.


Clarence Seedorf made his debut for Van Gaal’s Ajax aged just 16. Patrick Kluivert was barely 18, Marc Overmars was signed at 19, and Edwin van der Sar was a regular in goal at 22. An 18-year-old Edgar Davids made his debut three weeks before Van Gaal took over, but the midfielder, affectionately nicknamed ‘The Pitbull’ by his mentor, was kept in the side.

Ajax won the Eredivisie title in 1993/94 to qualify for the Champions League the following season. That young side, led on the pitch by experienced pair Frank Rijkaard and Danny Blind, the latter a former teammate of Van Gaal’s in Rotterdam, also retained their Dutch crown in 1994/95, going unbeaten in the Eredivisie and scoring 106 goals in 34 games, and took things to the next level by claiming Ajax’s first European crown in 22 years, since the days of Johan Cruyff. Kluivert remains the youngest ever scorer in a European Cup/Champions League final.

Then world champions after beating Gremio in the 1995 Intercontinental Cup, Van Gaal and Ajax won a third straight Eredivisie title in 1995/96 and returned to the Champions League final, where only a penalty shootout defeat to Juventus denied them a second triumph.

Career Honours​
​UEFA Cup (1991/92)
​KNVB Cup (1992/93)
​Eredivisie (1993/94, 1994/95, 1995/96, 2008/09)
​UEFA Champions League (1994/95); runner-up (1995/96, 2009/10)
​UEFA Super Cup (1995, 1997)
​Intercontinental Cup (1995)
​La Liga (1997/98, 1998/99)
​Copa del Rey (1997/98)
​Bundesliga (2009/10)
​DFB Pokal (2009/10)
​World Cup third place (2014)
​FA Cup (2015/16)

Van Gaal has infamously fallen out with a lot of people over the years, yet his bond with others is so strong and many of those who played under him revere him. “Finland has shaped me as a footballer, but Van Gaal added the last fifteen, twenty per cent. He was demanding and honest. He saw everything,” former Ajax great Jari Litmanen said in 2015.

Speaking to talkSPORT in 2019, Wayne Rooney described Van Gaal as “…tactically the best I have worked with – in terms of setting you up in a shape defensively and everyone knowing their roles,” putting the Dutchman ahead of even Sir Alex Ferguson in that regard.

After his Ajax team was broken up, partly by the new Bosman ruling, Van Gaal moved on to Barcelona in 1997. His success was instant, winning back-to-back La Liga titles, one as part of a domestic double in his first season.

That three year spell at Camp Nou saw an infamous spat with 1999 Ballon d’Or winner Rivaldo over his position on the pitch – a grudge which resulted in the Brazilian being released when Van Gaal returned in 2002 – but it also gave rise to the careers of future club legends Xavi and Carles Puyol after both were handed first team debuts. Van Gaal’s second spell at Barcelona would later see Andres Iniesta and Victor Valdes also make their respective debuts.


Van Gaal’s return to Barcelona, coming after a failed stint with the Dutch national team which resulted in failure to qualify for the 2002 World Cup, was not as successful as his first. He returned briefly to Ajax as technical director, before becoming coach at lesser known Eredivisie side AZ.

Remarkably, he led the team to the Eredivisie title in 2008/09 – the sixth domestic league title of his career. The previous season had been a bad one and Van Gaal was actually planning to resign in 2008 until a number of AZ players urged him to stay on.

After AZ, came Van Gaal’s return to the elite bracket when Bayern Munich came calling. Despite a slow start, he proved to be a popular figure and delivered the Bundesliga title in his first season. A DFB Pokal followed. And while defeat in the 2010 Champions League final denied Bayern an historic treble, Van Gaal had won seven league titles in three different countries.

Bastian Schweinsteiger, transformed from inconsistent winger to near flawless central midfielder, and Thomas Muller owe Van Gaal particular gratitude for his time in Germany.

Bayern Munich's midfielder Bastian Schwe

After finishing at Bayern and prior to moving to England, Van Gaal got a second chance to lead the Dutch national team. This time, his measured tactics, designed to minimise his players’ weaknesses and maximise their strengths, worked perfectly and took his team all the way to the 2014 World Cup semi-finals, finishing third against all expectations – the group stage had included a masterful 5-1 demolition of Spain – the holders had no answer to the Dutch system.

​Teams Managed Years​
​Ajax ​1991 – 1997
​Barcelona ​1997 – 2000
​Netherlands ​2000 – 2002
​Barcelona ​2002 – 2003
​AZ ​2005 – 2009
​Bayern Munich ​2009 – 2011
​Netherlands ​2012 – 2014
​Manchester United 2014 – 2016​

Van Gaal was ultimately treated rather terribly by Manchester United as the club negotiated with his successor behind his back for months. His disappointing spell in England, fuelled by failings of the club itself, is an unfortunate blot on an otherwise truly remarkable career.

Still, it couldn’t keep him down. As Van Gaal himself said to the BBC: “To win the FA Cup when, for six months, the media has a noose round my neck, is my biggest achievement.”

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Manchester United vs Inter Preview: Where to Watch, Live Stream, Kick Off Time & Team News

Manchester United will begin their International Champions Cup campaign against Inter on Saturday at the Singapore National Stadium, following victories in their first two pre-season fixtures – and it’s set to be an exciting matchup. 

The clash will be the first time the two sides have met since United beat Walter Mazzarri’s Inter on penalties in the International Champions Cup in 2014. United come into the game having used 23 players in both of their first two pre-season matches, whereas Inter have only played the one fixture so far.  

Despite it being a pre-season fixture, there is much anticipation as sub-plots have begun to form. The saga surrounding Romelu Lukaku’s reported desire to leave Manchester United for Inter only adds to the excitement. 


Check out 90min’s preview of the upcoming International Champions Cup fixture below. 

Where to Watch

​When Is Kick Off? ​Saturday 20 July
​What Time Is Kick Off? ​12:30 (BST)
Where Is it Played?​ ​Singapore National Stadium                   
​TV Channel/Live Stream?      ​MUTV
​Referee?  ​TBC

Team News

The Red Devils are expected to welcome back ​David de Gea, after he missed the Leeds triumph through illness. Luke Shaw picked up a knock in the Reds’ victory over Perth Glory, but returned to training and is expected to be available for the upcoming match. ​Lukaku is believed to have a knock and was left out completely against Leeds once again, however ​rumours continue to persist regarding a transfer to Inter. 

Nemanja Matic lasted just 33 minutes against Leeds before being taken off, suggesting his fitness is not quite up to scratch as of yet. Solskjaer has used 23 players in both of his first two pre-season matches, so the competition is high in the squad. 

Inter, meanwhile, have named a 27-man squad for their trip to Asia, including new signing Nicolo Barella.

The Italian was granted a work permit and may play a role. Elsewhere, Radja Nainggolan has been offered another chance, after being excluded from tactical drills in Lugano along with Mauro Icardi. Icardi has not made the squad however, as his future remains up in the air. 

Inter are without Lautaro Martinez as well, meaning their attacking options are limited. Samuele Longo may not feature as his future is being discussed, but Matteo Politano has overcome a thigh strain and is expected to play some part in their upcoming fixtures. Diego Godin, Matias Vecino and George Puscas will join up with the squad soon, but aren’t available here.

Predicted Lineups

​Manchester United De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Tuanzebe, Lindelof, Shaw; McTominay, Pogba; Martial, Lingard, Greenwood; Rashford.
​Inter  ​Handanovic; D’Ambrosio, De Vrij, Skriniar; Perisic, Sensi, Valero, Barella, Candreva; Esposito, Colidio.

Head to Head Record

The two clubs have only competitively faced each other four times, and United boast the better record. These four meetings were both two-legged Champions League ties. 

The first meeting was in the 1998/99 season, where United beat I Nerazzurri on their way to claiming the treble. The second re-match came in 2009 as the Red Devils once again swept aside the Italian side over two legs. 


The most recent fixture between the two sides came in the International Champions Cup back in 2014. The two sides were level at the end of the 90 minutes, before ​United took it on penalties. 

Recent Form

New manager Antonio Conte will be hoping to close the gap on ​Juventus and make a push for the Serie A title next season. The club finished fourth last time out, marginally pipping Milan to the final Champions League qualification space. 

I Nerazzurri won their first match of pre-season in Switzerland – a 2-1 victory of Lugano on 14 July in the Casinò Lugano Cup. 

Anthony Martial,Jesse Lingard,Ashley Young

On the other hand, United will be hoping to crack the top four next season. The Red Devils kicked off their pre-season with a 2-0 victory against Perth Glory, before ​easing past bitter rivals Leeds in Australia. 

They will now travel to Singapore as Solskjaer’s men look to gain some invaluable minutes and momentum heading into the new season.

Here’s a look at how both clubs have fared in their previous five matches. 

Manchester United  Inter ​
​Manchester United 4-0 Leeds United (17/7) ​Lugano 1-2 Inter (14/7) 
​Perth Glory 0-2 Manchester United (13/7)  ​Inter 2-1 Empoli (26/5)
​Manchester United 0-2 Cardiff City (12/5)           ​Napoli 4-1 Inter (19/5)
​Huddersfield 1-1 Manchester United (5/5)      ​Inter 2-0 Chievo (13/5)
​Manchester United 1-1 Chelsea (28/4) ​Udinese 0-0 Inter (4/5)                 


United come into the game with great confidence, having swept aside Leeds in fine fashion. Equally, Inter will take heart from their first pre-season match in Switzerland, and will be hoping to push on and improve on that performance.  

Mason Greenwood

It is expected to be a tight match, but United have one more game under their belt and appear to be showing good early form. Additionally, the exclusion of Icardi and the unavailability of Martinez leaves Conte with few attacking options. For these reasons, the Red Devils will be expected to take this one. 

Prediction: Manchester United 2-1 Inter


Africa Cup of Nations: 6 Standout Stars Who Deserve a Move to the Premier League

​After Sunday’s stunning conclusion of the 2019 African Cup of Nations semi-finals, it only leaves us with two matches to play before the end of a wonderfully entertaining tournament. 

While Premier League stars Sadio Mane and Riyad Mahrez meet in the final between Senegal and Algeria, we take a look at some of the other standout stars from the tournament who don’t currently ply their trade in England’s top tier. 

With some faces more recognisable than others, here are six standout stars from 2019’s AFCON, deserving of a move to join Mahrez and co. in the Premier League.

Ismaël Bennacer

Bennacer has remained one of Algeria’s most impressive players throughout the tournament. Pulling the strings in the centre of midfield, he has helped knit the team’s play together while offering drive from deeper areas. Arsenal fans may recognise the name after he was on the club’s books from 2015 to 2017. 

Currently at newly-relegated Empoli, he has impressed for the Tuscan club, with a move to AC Milan looking all the more likely. It’s a shame really, the 21-year-old would make an apt replacement for the departed Aaron Ramsey at Arsenal.

Samuel Chukwueze


Chukwueze has not shown the consistency that Bennacer has, but due to his prodigal, explosive talent, the young man would represent a good buy for many Premier League clubs. At 20 years old, he stands with the world at his feet. 

He has already made over 25 appearances for Villarreal so far in his career, and at the AFCON he has made five appearances with three starts and two off the bench. His man of the match display against South Africa in the quarter finals is where he particularly caught the eye, scoring the opening goal in Nigeria’s dramatic win, receiving a lot of attention from watchers outside Africa. 

It is unlikely that the club would need him after last years purchases of Richarlison and Bernard, but a club like Everton would be a good fit for the exciting winger.

Youcef Belaïli 


While Mahrez has been terrorising defences down the right hand side of Algeria’s attack, lesser-known Belaïli has been just as crucial to Algeria’s success in the tournament on the left. Linking up play superbly with target-man Baghdad Bounedjah, joining midfield and attack, Belaïli has grabbed two goals already so far. 

His direct running and intricate passing looks of a higher level than the Tunisian League Profesionnelle 1 he plays in, and much more at home with some of the Premier League stars he’s recently been sharing a pitch with. 

Plucking him from current club Espérance should not be as hard as grabbing talent in Europe, playing like an inside-forward somewhere like Brighton could be a great fit. 

Kalidou Koulibaly


​Without attempting to sound like Captain Obvious here, Kalidou Koulibaly is deserving of a move to the Premier League. The man-mountain has gone through transfer windows linked with every top club under the sun, and not without merit. 

Continuing his impressive form over the last two years, Koulibaly has been as solid as ever in this years AFCON. Helping to make crucial tackles and repelling everything in the air, Koulibaly has arguably been the tournament’s top defender. 

If it weren’t for a certain transfer ban, Koulibaly would be a great fit at Chelsea. But a club who can break the bank to get him, and where the player would be in keeping with the manager’s style of play, Manchester City would be no bad move for the Senegalese. Unlikely to happen this window but if Stones fails to make the grade over the next season, maybe in a year’s time?

Mahmoud Hassan


​​Mahmoud Hassan may well be known to you as Trézéguet. Despite an early shock exit to South Africa in the round of 16, Trezeguet has been one of the standout players of the competition. 

After kicking things off with the tournament’s first goal in stunning fashion, he continued to be a constant threat for Egypt down the left hand side. Rather unsurprisingly, after the group stage Trezeguet was the tournament’s top dribbler, with his pace and close control his most eye-catching assets. 

Reports are consistently linking him with ever-busy Aston Villa, though a move to a club like Southampton where his trickery is much needed would be just as wise.

Youcef Atal


​In truth, there are many more Algerian players that could have been picked for this list, but Youcef Atal gets the nod for his energetic and skilful displays at right back. Currently at Nice, Atal has filled into Ricardo Pereira’s shoes at club level extremely well. Able to operate at right midfield and right back, just like Pereira, his attacking threat has been a huge outlet for Algeria throughout the competition. 

There has been whispers previously of a move to Tottenham for Atal. Given how Pochettino likes his full backs, Atal fits the mould perfectly with a great engine, good pace and threat further forward. Unfortunately for Algeria, Atal’s tournament is over after injury ruled him out on Saturday.


Manchester United vs Leeds Preview: Where to Watch, Live Stream, Kick Off Time & Team News

​Manchester United and Leeds have seemingly been rivals since the dawn of time, and Wednesday will see the two clubs renew acquaintances as they both prepare for the upcoming 2019/20 season.

There hasn’t been a fixture between the two sides for a while, mainly due to Leeds being stuck in the Championship, with United enjoying varying levels of success since the Peacocks’ relegation from the top flight in 2004.

A pre-season friendly is the latest instalment of this fixture, the game taking place at Perth’s Optus Stadium at noon on Wednesday.

Marcelo Bielsa

Here’s 90min’s preview for this pre-season derby.

Where to Watch

​When Is Kick Off?                                           Wednesday 17 July                                          ​
​What Time Is Kick Off? ​12:00 (BST)
​Where Is It played? ​Optus Stadium, Perth
​TV Channel/Live Stream? ​MUTV or LUTV
​Referee? TBC​

Team News

Luke Shaw trained on Monday morning, which is positive news for the Red Devils after he limped off during the 2-0 win over Perth. Other than that, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer should have a fully fit squad available to him.

Solskjaer used 23 players during the game against Perth, so expect him to make plenty of changes during this match.

​Marcelo Bielsa has named 16 players for the trip to Australia, with half his squad making the journey and the rest staying in England to work on their fitness.

Among those in the squad are former Real Madrid goalkeeper Kika Casilla, forwards Patrick Bamford and Kemar Roofe and ex-Swansea star Pablo Hernandez.

Predicted Lineups

Manchester United De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Tuanzebe, Bailly, Shaw; McTominay, Pogba; James, Mata, Greenwood; Martial.
Leeds United Casilla; Dallas, Berardi, Cooper, Douglas; Phillips, Forshaw; Bogusz, Hernandez, Harrison; Roofe.

Head to Head Record​

The head to head stakes are more even than you’d expect, but United still have a comfortable advantage. They’ve have won 47 of the 109 clashes, with Leeds triumphing in 27 games and 35 ending in draws.

Manchester United's English forward Mich

The last time the two sides faced off came in a 2011 League Cup third round game at Elland Road, when Michael Owen scored twice with Ryan Giggs also getting himself a strike.

Recent Form

Leeds are recovering from their Championship play-off semi final defeat against Derby at the tail end of last season and are looking to go one step further and earn promotion to the Premier League this time round.

They’ve played two pre-season games so far – beating York City 5-0 on 10 July before triumphing over Guiseley 2-1 a day later.

Perth Glory v Manchester United

United, on the other hand, will be looking to break into the top four once the season gets up and running. Their clash with Perth Glory in their pre-season opener saw them record a 2-0 win, Marcus Rashford and James Garner both scoring.

Here’s how each side has fared in their last five games.

​Manchester United Leeds United​
​Perth Glory 0-2 Manchester United (13/7) ​Guiseley 1-2 Leeds United (11/7)
​Manchester United 0-2 Cardiff (12/5) ​York City 0-5 Leeds United (10/7)
​Huddersfield 1-1 Manchester United (5/5) ​Leeds United 2-4 Derby County (15/5)
​Manchester United 1-1 Chelsea (28/4) ​Derby County 0-1 Leeds United (11/5)
​Manchester United 0-2 Manchester City (24/4) ​Ipswich Town 3-2 Leeds United (5/5)


Overall, United would be expected to win this one but pre-season can throw up some unusual results from time to time: just look at Accrington Stanley’s 2-0 win over Marseille earlier in July.

Either way, this is a good test for both sides ahead of the new campaign, as both look to challenge at the top of their respective leagues.

As friendlies go this could well be one of the least affectionate in the fixture’s history. There should be a large crowd and both sets of players will be bang up for it.

Prediction: Manchester United 3-1 Leeds United